By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
As the deadly coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, with Nigeria recording one death and about 35 cases, 27 of which are in Lagos, an effort by the Rivers State Government to protect its citizens from the menace seems to be meeting stiff opposition from churches and commercial motorists.
They have refused to comply with the government’s directives aimed at preventing an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in Rivers State.
The state government had, last week, directed that there should be no gathering of more than 50 people at any public or religious event and that people should sit at least one and a half metres away from one another while sanitizers should be provided, all in a bid to limit body contact and the possibility of an outbreak.
But on Sunday, Christians threw caution to the wind and trooped to their various churches in their usual large numbers as if nothing was at stake.
Investigation showed that although some churches told their members not to shake hands as usual and also rearranged their sitting positions to create more spaces between members, many others did not care to observe such precautions.
They rather encouraged their members to keep invoking the blood of Jesus which they believe has the efficacy to cover them and also clear the virus.
Justifying their decision to disregard the precautionary measures, one pastor of a new generation church in Diobu, Port Harcourt, told TPCN that the precautionary measures were not necessary for those already immersed in the blood of Jesus which he said was more than capable to protect all born-again Christians from the menace.
When reminded that the bible says we should respect authorities and that obedience is better than sacrifice, the pastor replied: “Yes, the bible said we should respect authorities and pray for those in power and that is what we’re doing even now. But the same bible says we as servants should obey our masters and parents in the Lord and our master is no other than Jesus. That is why we must come to church to pray for the nation and the whole world. Also, remember that the bible says we should not neglect the gathering of the brethren. So we’re not disrespecting the government by coming to church; rather, we are fulfilling scriptures.”
Similarly, bus, taxi and Keke drivers have refused to comply with the Rivers State Government’s directive to carry fewer passengers to reduce their chances of body contact.
By the new directive announced by the state commissioner for transport, Sunny Ejekwu, Danfo buses are to carry a maximum of 10 passengers which includes one person at the front. They are also supposed to provide wipes and tissue papers for their passengers to use in cleaning their seats and door rails. The taxi and Keke drivers would now carry only 3 and 2 passengers respectively.
But TPCN investigation revealed that the commercial motorists did not comply with the directive which was supposed to effect from today, Monday.
As at the time of writing this report, the 14 and 18-seater buses were still carrying their normal passengers while the taxis were carrying their usual 5 passengers -3 at the back and 2 in front. Also, the Keke drivers carried their normal 4 passengers -3 at the back and 1 in front.
When asked if they were not informed about the new directive, a taxi driver who plies Rumuola to Lagos route told TPCN that it would be difficult to comply with the directive without the government cautioning the effect of the losses they would incure.
“You see my brother, every day I do account to the owner of the taxi. It’s not my own. The owner will not understand that things have changed because we have an agreement on how much I must give him every day. So, if the government wants this thing to work, they should talk to the owners of the vehicles; they should have a meeting with the National Union of Road Transport Owners or find a way to assist us financially,” he explained.
So far, the Rivers State Ministry of Transport has not started enforcing the new directives with its task force as it promised to do.